Seattle Storm: Takeaways from Sunday’s Win over the Wings

The Seattle Storm gained a measure of revenge against the Dallas Wings on Sunday, picking up a 97-76 win on the road.

Seattle outscored Dallas 29-12 in the fourth quarter, and the Storm went on a 22-0 at one point to turn what had been a close game into a blowout.

Breanna Stewart (28 points, 12 rebounds) and Sue Bird (10 points, 10 assists) both finished with double-doubles. Jewell Loyd had a game to forget in terms of scoring (12 points on 3-of-11 shooting) but made up for it with five rebounds and five assists.

The Storm had little answer for Liz Cambage in the first half. She had 20 points through the first 20 minutes, yet ended with just 23 for the game. Seattle also held Skylar Diggins-Smith to 10 points, half of her scoring average (20.0) this season entering the game.

Here are some of the bigger takeaways from the game.

 

Supporting Cast Steps Up

The last postgame review touched on Sami Whitcomb hitting her first three-pointer since June 2 and how it could open up the floodgates for her.

That’s exactly what happened Sunday. Whitcomb scored 12 points, shooting 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. It’s the most three-pointers she hit in a single game since her 22-point outing against the New York Liberty in May 2017.

Having Whitcomb back to her best helps Seattle in two ways.

For one, it obviously means the Storm have another scorer to ease the offensive burden on Stewart and Loyd—or to compensate for when one of those two have an off night.

Secondly, Whitcomb forces the defense to account for her presence at all times. Because of her quick release, you can’t leave her open for more than a half-second before her shot is up.

When Whitcomb is struggling from the perimeter, defenders don’t have to worry as much about smothering her away from the ball. When her shots are going down, however, that’s often one fewer defender who can help double Stewart inside or rotate over to guard against Loyd or Natasha Howard driving into the paint.

Whitcomb wasn’t the only bench player to step up Sunday. Jordin Canada had nine points and three assists, though she turned the ball over five times. Courtney Paris did exactly what was needed as well, scoring three points and grabbing five rebounds. Paris had the second-best defensive rating on the team (80.0) as she helped neutralize Cambage inside.

It’s not as simple as saying the bench was the distinction between Seattle’s 94-90 loss to Dallas on June 2 and the team’s 21-point win Sunday. But the Storm bench combined for 12 points in the first meeting, compared to 26 in the second matchup.

 

Storm Take Cambage out of the Game in Second Half

Cambage’s plus-minus rating is another telling indicator as to the difference between Dallas and Seattle’s two head-to-head games.

Earlier this month, the Wings were plus-six with Cambage on the floor. On Sunday, they were minus-19. Cambage’s 93.4 offensive rating was the lowest among the Wings’ five starters.

Particularly in the second half, the Storm succeeded in harassing Cambage inside. They double-teamed her almost every time she got the ball close to the basket. On occasion, a third player would even rotate over to try and knock the ball away before Cambage could get her shot up.

Throwing so many players at Cambage could’ve backfired if the Wings capitalized on the open shots the double teams inevitably created. Instead, Dallas was 7-of-23 on three-pointers.

That’s a testament to the Storm’s off-ball defense and communication, both of which were problems in 2017.

 

KML Delivers on Defense

Alysha Clark missed her third straight game with an ankle injury, which gave Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis her third start of the season.

Mosqueda-Lewis scored eight points on 2-of-3 shooting, with all of the damage coming in the opening quarter. Her best work came on defense. She recorded a season-high two steals and more than once held her own when matched up against Cambage.

In the first game with the Wings, Mosqueda-Lewis was on the floor for 6:25, during which the Storm were minus-11. Seattle also had a 200.0 defensive rating.

Contrast that with Sunday, when the Storm were plus-16 and had a 93.3 defensive rating during Mosqueda-Lewis’ 21:24 on the court.

 

Langhorne Still Struggling with Bench Role

The idea of bringing Crystal Langhorne off the bench sounds great. She averaged 12.4 points and shot 64.9 percent from the field in 2017. In addition, she’s an underrated defender when she doesn’t have to guard elite centers who have three or four inches on her.

The reality is, Langhorne hasn’t looked herself since losing her starting minutes to Howard. Her .471 field-goal percentage is the lowest of her career, and her 87.1 offensive rating is worst on the team.

Langhorne played a little under 12 minutes Sunday, scoring two points and grabbing three rebounds. She shot 1-of-5 from the floor.

The Storm’s season won’t hinge on Langhorne’s performance. But it would be a nice luxury for Seattle to have a hyper-efficient inside scorer coming off the bench.